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Friday, November 12, 2010

Biblical socialism - "to each as anyone has need"

Jesus is a socialist.  He is the embodiment of God's socialist values and His commands of social justice and social equity.  There are literally thousands of verses in the bible explaining this.  Below are just a  few declaring that not only is He a Socialist but He abhors the excessive greed embraced by many capitalists.

Firstly, it is important to define what Socialism is. The Oxford English Dictionary defines Socialism as:

'1. A theory or policy of social organization which aims at or advocates the ownership and control of the means of production, capital, land, property, etc., by the community as a whole, and their administration or distribution in the interests of all.
2. A state of society in which things are held or used in common'.

Karl Marx once wrote 'From each according to his ability, to each according to his need'.

This is scriptural and accords with Acts 4:35 and Exodus 16:16. In fact, Acts 4:32-35 summarises God's manifesto of wealth distribution:

32Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common.33 And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all.34Nor was there anyone among them who lacked; for all who were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of the things that were sold,35 and laid them at the apostles’ feet; and they distributed to each as anyone had need

In the Old Testament there are references to socialism:

Exodus 16:16-18: 16This is the thing which the LORD has commanded: ‘Let every man gather it according to each one’s need, one omer for each person, according to the number of persons; let every man take for those who are in his tent.’ 17Then the children of Israel did so and gathered, some more, some less.18So when they measured it by omers, he who gathered much had nothing left over, and he who gathered little had no lack. Every man had gathered according to each one’s need.
These scriptures clearly embody socialist principles, or even dare it be said, communism (refer Acts 4:32 above) with all wealth held for the common good by the community.

Having defined what Socialism is, it is important to understand what it is not. It is not the example that was set by the Soviet Union, in particular by Stalin and his ilk who were capitalist, power hungry despots masquerading as Socialists whilst lining their own pockets, building their empires, oppressing dissent and murdering their own people. That was not Socialism.

Unlike capitalism, Socialism does not mean that one group of people receives benefits to the detriment of others. Socialism is founded in equality, not oppression. The bible also advises the redistribution of wealth to overcome inequality as described in 2 Corinthians 8:13-15 which states For I do not mean that others be eased and you burdened; but by an equality, that now at this time your abundance may supply their lack, that their abundance also may supply your lack - that there may be equality. As it is written, 'He who gathered much had nothing left over, and he who gathered little had no lack.'

Biblical socialism does not just apply to individuals but also applies to governments and those who are in authority.

Jesus is King of Kings and Lord of Lords, He commanded ALL kings and leaders of nations to bow down to Him. If Kings and Presidents and Prime Ministers are to bow down to Him, then God's commands also apply to the way they run their governments and spend their taxes. Romans 13:1-7 clearly states that governments are ordained by God to "'not be a terror to good works, but to be a terror to evil':

1Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.
2Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.
3For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: 4For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.
5Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake. 6For for this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God's ministers, attending continually upon this very thing.
7 Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour.

It says governments are to execute judgement on evil, this does not mean at the expense of good. Rulers are God's ministers, they are to do good FIRST, execute judgement on evil SECOND.

The verses prior to this are found in Romans 12:20-21 and declare:

'If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
If he is thirsty, give him a drink;
For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.' Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

The responsibility and power that governments have in addressing issues of world poverty were borne out by Jubilee 2000 (based on the biblical principle of the year of Jubilee), in which a few countries, including the United Kingdom and Australia wiped clean the debt owed by a number of poor nations. This effectively enabled a number of those nations to then spend money that would have been spent paying debt, on addressing issues such as nutrition, education and health. This was significant because most of those poorer nations had already paid back the principal and were bogged down paying only the interest component so that they were unable to direct money into poverty eradication, education and health.

Forgiveness of debt is only one step along the road to overcoming poverty. These economies and their industries need to become self-sufficient and this is being addressed through the issue of fair trade - another socialist principle. Sadly the so called 'Free Trade' agreements implemented and enforced by the world's richest nations greatly disadvantage the world's poorer nations.  To counter this capitalistic rape of smaller economies, a number of countries and organisations are now looking toward 'fair trade' or 'trade justice' to help develop the economies and industry of the world's poorer nations, leading them to self-sufficiency. (refer to

Arguments have been put forward that forgiving debt only encourages corrupt regimes.  Of course this needs to be considered and addressed, but the alternative is to allow poorer nations to continue wallowing in crippling debt, while their citizens live in abject poverty, dying from preventable diseases, dying from hunger and unable to establish themselves economically which will provide a huge boost in overcoming all of these issues.

Overcoming corruption and oppression (greed fuelled traits of unfettered capitalism) goes further than debt and economics, after all, many of these regimes have been sponsored by powerful, capitalist governments for years.  The USA, the former USSR and many European nations sponsored oppressive and corrupt regimes in Iraq, Iran, Libya, various African nations, Afghanistan and many more. It is no secret that the USA provided extensive funding and training to the Mujahideen in Afghanistan, out of which arose Al Qaeda and the Taliban. Corruption and oppression are not the sole blame of the governments of those countries; they are also the fault of nations who encourage and fund them and their nefarious activities. Overcoming corruption, overcoming poverty, overcoming oppression requires governments to take responsibility and abide by the social justice commands of God.

Individuals have a responsibility to ensure that they contribute to and participate in politics. Christians need to oppose governments who prioritise military spending over poverty reduction policies. Christians have a responsibility to oppose governments that demonise asylum seekers and refugees, oppress the poor, fail to provide education or health services to society and the poor in particular. Activities which are the basis of a true socialist revolution in which the workers, the citizens, have true power and ability to hold governments accountable.

Western nations claim to be democratic, yet the only evident aspect of democracy is free elections.  Nations such as the United States are plutocracies in which the wealthiest have the power and the poor have little or no representation, have sub-standard health and education services.

Jesus opposed greed, he opposed the oppressing of people, he came to set the captives free. He opposed the use of religion to encourage greed. Yet we have seen an upsurge in the "Christian Right" supporting plutocratic regimes at the expense of biblical social justice.

Remember that Jesus threw the money-changers out of the temples (Mark 11:15-17): 15So they came to Jerusalem. Then Jesus went into the temple and began to drive out those who bought and sold in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves.16And He would not allow anyone to carry wares through the temple. 17 Then He taught, saying to them, 'Is it not written, "My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations"? But you have made it a den of thieves.’

Looking after the poor, does not mean that God or socialism encourages laziness. There are scriptures that condemn laziness and reward hard work with wealth as shown in the following scriptures:

Proverbs 10:4 - Lazy hands make a man poor, but diligent hands bring wealth.
Proverbs 14:23 - All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty.

Keep these scriptures in context - they are not about greed! There is balance here: hard work leads to wealth which does not come at the expense of the poor or down-trodden.  This wealth was meant to be shared as the bible constantly reminds us. We are to care for the poor and the oppressed. Jesus warns against the greed of capitalism which comes at personal, spiritual and social cost.

Luke 16:19-31, the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, in which Lazarus was covered in sores and was so poor and hungry that he desired to be fed with the crumbs that fell from the rich man's table. Yet the rich man did not feed or care for Lazarus. When they both died, Lazarus went to 'Abraham's Bosom' while the rich man went to Hades. The rich man cried out to Abraham in Luke 16: 24 'Then he cried and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.’ But Abraham said, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted and you are tormented.' This would have turned out differently for the rich man if he had shown mercy to Lazarus.

Matthew 13:22, in the parable of the sower he states 'Now he who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the word, and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful'. God is not against people earning money or being successful in their careers. He is against people being deceived by riches and forsaking others and our responsibility to each other. The way we treat others is the way we treat Jesus, refer Matthew 25:45: 'Verily I say unto you, inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me.'

Understand the parable of the sheep and the goats Matthew 25), which saw people being judged by their treatment of the poor and oppressed, not for any other reason, not because of their stand on moral issues. For God the greatest moral issue is the care of the poor and oppressed; social justice is his priority:

Matthew 25:31 - 'When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory.32 All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats.33And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left.

34 Then the King will say to those on His right hand,‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:35 for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in;36I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.

37'Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give you drink? 38When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? 39Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You? 40And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’

41 'Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels: 42 for I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink; 43 I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.’

44 'Then they also will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?’

45 Then He will answer them, saying, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ 46 And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.'

Any political party which increases military spending and tax cuts for the rich while cutting back social welfare programs such as public health and education is acting abhorrently and in contradiction of biblical tenets, and Christians should not be supporting such action. Individuals, churches and governments are called to stand up for Christian values.

Caring for the poor is more than just giving them cash. A job and all the benefits that entails is important, such as the ability to buy food, clothing, education. The dignity and respect that comes with working is paramount. It is imperative that people be provided with health care, sanitation, shelter and other basic needs and services which can only be effectively undertaken or coordinated by governments and supported by organisations and individuals - as Jesus commanded!  This is a community issue, a social issue and the responsibility of all. Capitalism has failed in these areas through making health care and education unaffordable by many in society.

Compassion, social justice and the sharing of resources by the world-wide community is imperative in overcoming poverty, combating crime and terrorism, removing the desperation that millions of people in the world live with daily. Over 8.8 million children died before their fifth birthday in 2008, most because of poverty related issues such as malnutrition and lack of adequate health care, 148 million children under 5 years old in developing nations are underweight for their age, 1 billion childen are deprived of one or more services essential to survival and development, 2.5 billion people still lack access to improved sanitation services (refer to

Unfortunately, both right and left wing governments have prioritised military spending and hegemony above the welfare of people. Hundreds of thousands of people die from military conflict and millions are affected terribly by its outcomes.

There are over 2,000 bible scriptures which address poverty and command us to do something about it. Even our attitude towards the poor is important. Many people are treated like 2nd class citizens because of their socio-economic status. We are commanded to see above that. In Matthew 9:13, Jesus states 'Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.'

The treatment of asylum seekers and refugees is important to God, yet many Christians have demonised and persecuted refugees, in direct contravention of scriptures:

Leviticus 19:33-34: And if a stranger dwells with you in your land, you shall not mistreat him. 34 The stranger who dwells among you shall be to you as one born among you, and you shall love him as yourself.

Exodus 22:21 - Thou shalt neither vex a stranger, nor oppress him: for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt.

Deuteronomy 10:18 - He administers justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the stranger, giving him food and clothing.

This does not mean that we settle everyone into the country who asks for it.   There is a process for determining whether or not someone is a refugee. However, that process does not include vilification even if the claim for refugee status is not approved (Leviticus 19:33 clearly states not to mistreat the stranger). Exodus 22:21 shows that we must have empathy with asylum seekers. Consider what we would do in their situations if we were faced with the horrendous calamity they were experiencing. Would we stay in a situation where our families are being murdered, raped, tortured or would we do something about it? Have mercy and compassion on asylum seekers and refugees.

Jesus's first sermon, preached in Nazareth is his mission statement, his Manifesto; it declares his purpose on earth, in life and for His ministry:

Luke 4:18-19:

18 'The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, Because He has anointed Me To preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives And recovery of sight to the blind, To set at liberty those who are oppressed; 19 To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.'

This is the tenet that we should be living by, it should be used as the gauge by which we measure our decisions.

Jesus was for social justice and social equality. The opposite of social justice is social Darwinism - survival of the fittest: Capitalism. This is contrary to the teaching of Jesus, when He said in Matthew 25:45 - 'Whatever you did for the least of My brothers and sisters, you did for Me.'

Isaiah 10 clearly warns governments against mistreating the poor and oppressed:

1Woe to those who make unjust laws, to those who issue oppressive decrees, 2 to deprive the poor of their rights and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people, making widows their prey and robbing the fatherless.

Our society is comprised of individuals, families, religious groups and governments; ALL of us are commanded to care for the 'least of these'.

This makes fulfilling God's commands a community responsibility, a social responsibility. Socialism is the politic of a God fearing society.

Social justice, social equity and fairness are the basis of God's Socialism.  In their fulfillment is the nature, love and mercy of God.


For further comment on Biblical Socialism, refer to the following article:

Socialism, Capitalism and the Parable of the Talents